Why We Actually Liked Chipotle’s Candle-Cup Marketing Ploy

The brand acknowledged that we've been stealing lemonade for years

A Chipotle cup resting on a table.
No shot there's water in there.
Smith Collection/Gado/Contributor

Brands have gotten out of control on Twitter.

They like to speak in the first person, offer cheeky takes on the latest news cycle and chirp their competitors with winky face emoji, all in a barely veiled effort to win some algorithmic juice and the hearts of coveted Gen Z. This bullshit has been going on for years. As a marketing and psychology professor told Vice back in 2019, “Brands now behave like real people with idiosyncratic personalities on social media platforms.”

Normally, this behavior makes me want to walk into the ocean. Last year, McDonald’s won Twitter’s “Best Brand Presence” award, highlighted by its innovative, “boundary-pushing” tweet: “ba da ba ba ba really didn’t have to go that hard.” Great. And earlier this year, RadioShack (now a crypto platform?) bullied the internet into submission with a barrage of profanity that was clearly cloaked in market research. One tweet read: “Old business plan: politely sell hdmi cords to customers. New business plan: snappin necks and cashin checks bitches.”

It all just sucks. I’ve come to expect next to nothing from brands. So a clever stunt that Chipotle pulled this week left me happily surprised.

The marketing whizzes over at the fast-casual chain decided to acknowledge a little trickery we’ve all pulled at one point or another — you ask for a water cup, you realize that it isn’t see-through, you notice the water tab at the soda fountain is directly under the lemonade nozzle, you conclude it’s unlikely anyone will notice, you rationalize it’s even unlikelier that anyone will care, you get 40 grams of sugar for free.

Stealing lemonade from Chipotle is a time-honored tradition, akin to high school kids working their way through their parents’ handle of vodka over the course of a summer. There’s adrenaline when you’re in it, and gratitude, later on, upon learning that they knew what was going on the entire time.

Kudos to Chipotle for not caring, but more importantly, for not needing to broadcast in a shallow, stupid way that they don’t care. (The offending tweet would be along the lines of: “when life gives you a @chipotle water cup, you pour lemonade [shh emoji].)

No. Chipotle decided to make a candle, which is actually a useful product, and scent it with lemon, which is one of the top three best scents to waft through a home. It all works. Unfortunately, the candle-cup is already sold out. But if you feel really strongly about it, you can probably find somewhere to buy it online. I don’t need it. I’m satisfied enough to see a brand do something right.


Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.